Setting up an aquarium is fun and challenging, especially if it is your first time. You will need a lot of things, but one of the most important is the best aquarium gravel.
While you have several choices for the substrate to use, gravel is one of the most popular. It is a combination of both form and function.
Some might assume that gravel is only for aesthetics. That is not the case. It is vital for fish and plants.
Are you looking for the best aquarium gravel? We got you covered in this short buying guide. Keep on reading and we’ll help you make the right decision.
Benefits of Using Aquarium Gravel
Need more compelling reasons to use gravel in your aquarium? Below are some of the benefits that can convince you.
- Decoration: This is what most people would assume. It improves the overall aesthetic appeal of your aquarium. It creates a visual landscape that will be good to look at and can even have a calming effect.
- Fish Habitat: Using gravel as a substrate will let you create a more natural habitat for fish. Especially if the fish likes to burrow, it gives them a place to hide. It also minimizes reflections that can be stressful for the fish.
- Home for the Plants: Aside from the fish, gravel also helps create a suitable habitat for aquatic plants. It will help the plants to root properly and will also provide the essential nutrients for their survival.
- Biological Filtration: Aquarium gravel provides a nesting spot for beneficial bacteria. This will help in the elimination of waste. It acts as a medium for the growth of bacteria that the fish and plants need.
Our Top Picks for the Best Aquarium Gravel
We are here to make your life easier! Stop looking far! Below are the top products that should be on your radar.
#1. BXI – Decorative Stones – Garden Yard Walkway Fish Tank Aquaruim
Starting our list is a great product in terms of versatility. While you can use this as aquarium gravel, it is equally impressive in other applications, such as ponds and driveways.
This gravel has a polished construction. This will give the rocks a natural shine while also protecting its core components. The best thing is that there are no harsh chemicals that can harm fish or plants in an aquarium.
You can expect this set of gravel to be long-lasting. It also does not require too much on your end when it comes to care and maintenance.
However, there might be a paraffin wax coating. This isn’t a big problem. All that you need is to rinse and soak the rocks. Others go as far as boiling to remove the wax coating.
#2. Spectrastone Shallow Creek Regular Aquarium Gravel
If you have a small aquarium, then this is the best option for you. It has tiny pebbles, which will complement a little aquarium. The manufacturer notes that it is designed for a freshwater aquarium.
The size of the pebbles in this pack varies, which will range from ¼ to ½ inch. Like the natural pebbles, the size isn’t uniform.
Despite the small size, you can use it to anchor plants and aquarium décor. Make sure that it is thick or high enough for the decorative pieces to be stable.
We also love how it is made using natural materials. It has no toxic components. Because of this, it will not affect the pH of the water. It will also not alter water chemistry in any way.
It is also a great choice because it is user-friendly. When it is used for the first time, you do not need to soak it. Give it a quick rinse and it will be ready to go to the aquarium.
#3. Maynooth Natural Granite Decorative Aquarium Gravel
The best thing about this product is that it is 100% granitic gneiss. This is a material sourced from Algonquin Park in Ontario, Canada.
Even at its smallest size of ¼ inch, you can see how beautiful the gravel. It has distinctive patterns, which will surely add an aesthetic appeal in any aquarium.
The stones are screened and spray-washed with water only. This is unlike others that are treated using chemicals. You can be confident that the gravel is safe and clean.
Despite all the good things about this product, however, some people noted that it can be quite rough.
#4. SACKORANGE 2 LB Aquarium Gravel River Rock
Looking for the best way to add life to a dull and boring aquarium? Use this pack of aquarium gravel and you cannot go wrong!
These gravel rocks are naturally polished for a smoother effect. It is available in a range of colors that can instantly elevate the aesthetics of any aquarium.
We also like how the rocks are fade-resistant. Even if they are submerged in water for a long time, you can expect the colors to stay vibrant.
The size is slightly bigger than the three products mentioned above. The biggest will be about one-inch in length.
#5. Galashield River Rocks Polished Pebble
With various shapes and sizes, this is another great option for the best aquarium gravel. It looks like natural pebbles in shades of white, brown, and black.
With the natural and subdued colors of the gravel, this is a great choice if you have a bright-colored fish. Your fish is sure to stand out with this gravel as your substrate.
It is safe for the fish because it is polished. This means that it will be smooth. No rough edges can hurt the fish when it gets in contact with the stone.
Each bag of this aquarium gravel weighs 2 pounds. Approximately, every bag has 200 stones. The sizes of the stones will vary from .3 to .6 inches.
#6. Seachem Flourite Black Clay Gravel
This aquarium gravel is made of stable porous clay. It is designed for aquariums with natural plants. It provides a substrate conducive to the healthy growth of aquatic plants.
One of the best things about using this gravel is that you do not need to add modifiers. As recommended by the manufacturer, it is best to use this gravel on its own.
Safety is another good reason to choose this for the best aquarium gravel. It has not been through a chemical treatment. You can be confident that it will not alter the pH level of the water in your aquarium.
Once the substrate is already in the aquarium, make sure to add water as slowly as possible. This will prevent the flow of water from disturbing the position of the gravel at the bottom.
Before the gravel is packed, it has already been pre-washed. Despite this, the manufacturer notes that you should still rinse it before putting in the aquarium to make sure that it is clean.
#7. GLOFISH Accent Gravel for Aquariums
Create a unique substrate set-up with this option for the best aquarium gravel. This is a colorful addition to your tank!
The gravel contains multicolored pieces. The shades include pink, green, blue, and grey, among other colors.
You will like the fluorescent effect that it will have in your aquarium. Complemented with proper lighting, your tank is sure to look magical as the gravel gives a different kind of glow in your aquarium set-up.
Aside from being colorful, they are also made in such a way that they will not alter the pH level in the water. Your fish and plants will be happy and safe!
#8. Pure Water Pebbles Nature’s Ocean Aquarium Gravel
Whether you have freshwater or saltwater aquarium, this is another great option for the best substrate. It is non-toxic, so you won’t be introducing any harsh chemicals in your aquarium.
The coating of the gravel is 100% acrylic. This will not alter the water chemistry, ensuring a safe space for fish and plants to thrive.
With these stones, you will have a generous living space for beneficial microbes. To add, it can also provide the space you need for anchoring plants.
As instructed by the manufacturer, be sure to wash the rocks first before putting in the aquarium. A quick rinse will be enough and there is no need to soak it for a long time.
#9. Imagitarium Frosted Black Aquarium Gravel
If you have light or bright-colored fish, this is a great pick for the best aquarium gravel. This aquatic substrate is built for both freshwater and saltwater aquarium. The black stones will make your fish stand out!
Make your aquarium artistic. This pack of gravel contains shades of onyx, ebony, and midnight blue. It will make your aquarium look magical.
With the use of this gravel, you can encourage the presence of beneficial bacteria in the aquarium. It will also help in breaking down waste.
However, users noted that it has a wax coating. This isn’t a big problem. You can easily remove the wax coating by rinsing the gravel in warm water before putting it in the aquarium.
#10. WAYBER Decorative Aquarium Gravel
Give your aquarium a hint of style with the use of this decorative gravel. They are made of natural raw crystal stones, so there’s no need to worry about the safety of fish and plants.
Even if it is submerged in water, you can expect that the color will remain vibrant over time. This is unlike others with colors that will easily fade.
However, some users noted that these are crystals and not rocks. Hence, it may not be as good as other options. Nonetheless, you can always mix it with rocks for a beautiful substrate in your aquarium.
#11. Marina Decorative Aquarium Gravel
Would you like to make your fish tank look more attractive? You do not need to spend a lot! This is a cheap way to elevate the looks of your aquarium.
This gravel is in a smaller bag. The size is also smaller than standard gravel or rocks used as substrate. Nonetheless, if you have a small aquarium, then this will be more than enough.
One of the best things about this gravel is its color. It will look good when it is combined with larger rocks, especially ones with brighter colors.
While the stones are tiny, they can still do a good job of holding plants in an aquarium. This is a great way to anchor other decorative pieces that you intend to keep in your tank.
Some of you, however, may not be happy with its price. It can be quite expensive, considering that each bag comes with only 450 grams of gravel.
#12. Carib Sea ACS00877 Gemstone Creek Aquarium Gravel
This is not your ordinary gravel. It is available in five distinct grades and three bag sizes, making sure that there is something for everyone.
With this substrate in your aquarium, it will be easy to captivate attention. Your fish isn’t the only star of the tank! For sure, people will also compliment how stylish your gravel is!
It is also worth noting that it is pH neutral, which ensures its safety in all systems. It will not alter the water chemistry in your fish tank.
The large grain size of the gravel is also a good thing. This will be effective in the reduction of detritus or dead particulate organic material in the aquarium.
#13. Carib Sea Super Naturals Peace River Aquarium Gravel
This is from the same manufacturer as the product mentioned above. The main difference, however, is that it is smaller. If you need a smaller substrate, this is for you.
With this pack of aquarium gravel, it will be easy for you to recreate a natural river ecosystem. This creates a more livable habitat for your fish and aquatic plants.
Similar to many other options for the best aquarium gravel listed in this guide, it is also pH neutral. You can be confident that it will not introduce harsh components in your tank.
In the production of the gravel, it does not use any kind of dye or paint. This is another reason why it does not contain chemicals.
Despite having no chemicals, we recommend that you give the gravel a quick rinse before you assemble it in an aquarium.
#14. Pettex Roman Gravel Aquarium Gravel
This gravel is a great way to give your aquarium a distinct look. It is different from the other options on our list because it is white.
The finer size of this gravel compared to our other recommendations will make it a great choice for a planting medium. Also, because it makes the substrate more compact, there will be lesser space for food particles and waste to hide.
However, since it is white, you need to clean it often. Dirt will be easily visible, and it can be prone to discoloration without proper care and maintenance.
#15. CNZ Decorative Ornamental Aquarium Gravel
With natural and non-toxic stones, this is another great option for safe aquarium gravel. All that you need to do is rinse the gravel before putting in the fish tank.
The gravel has different sizes. When arranged at the floor of your tank, it will provide an ideal nesting ground for beneficial bacteria. The latter is necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem for your fish and aquatic plants.
However, choose this product only if you want large rocks. According to some of its buyers, the size is bigger than what appears in the picture. Make sure to arrange it properly as any gap can provide an area for waste and food to accumulate.
How to Choose the Best Aquarium Gravel
While the options are plenty, this does not mean that you can pick any aquarium gravel. Here are some of the most important considerations to help you narrow down your choices.
Compatibility with Aquarium
One of the first things you should do is consider the type of water in the aquarium. Choose gravel that is suited for the water in the tank.
You will have two main choices – gravel for freshwater and saltwater. Most of the options that you will find in the market are designed specifically for freshwater aquariums.
Look at the size of the aquarium gravel to help you narrow down the possibilities. If you choose large gravel, then expect that it will create a larger gap. This will create a big space for biological waste and leftover food to hide. If not properly cleaned, this can be harmful.
If you want the substrate to be more compact, then the best would be to choose smaller gravel. Nonetheless, because it will compress easier, this can create areas in the tank with no oxygen.
The material and composition of the gravel should also be considered. They are not made of the same materials, so consider what is best for your needs.
The most important is for the gravel to be non-toxic. It should not be made with any chemical that can harm the fish or plants.
Take note that aquarium gravel is chemically inert. This means that it will not dissolve when it is in water.
You should also choose smooth gravel. If it has rough edges, then it can hurt the fish.
The aquarium gravel should also be lime-free. It should not be sealed with polymers. Otherwise, it will negatively affect the water chemistry in the aquarium.
This is one thing that most people tend to ignore despite their importance. While this is a personal choice, you need to consider the fish that you have.
Pick a gravel color that will create a contrast with the color of the fish. For instance, if you have a brightly or lightly colored fish, it is best to choose gravel with dark color.
Some people prefer choosing light-colored gravel. The good thing about this gravel is that you can easily see dirt and determine if there is a need for cleaning.
Cleaning Aquarium Gravel
Now that you have an idea of what to buy, you should also know how to clean the gravel. Whether you are using it for the first time or as a part of routine maintenance, proper cleaning is a must.
Before putting the gravel in the aquarium, wash it. Place the gravel in a strainer, run water on the top, and let it drain. This will get rid of any particle you don’t want in the aquarium.
You should also soak the gravel in dechlorinated water. You can soak it for about 20 minutes before putting it in the aquarium.
When you are cleaning aquarium gravel, do not use soap, especially one that contains toxic chemicals. These chemicals can leech to the gravel and can be transferred to the aquarium.
Do not clean the gravel in an aquarium. The best practice is to remove anything else and take the gravel out of the aquarium before cleaning.
Below, we’ll answer some of the questions that you might have about aquarium gravels.
Is gravel safe for fish and plants in an aquarium?
Yes, gravel is safe for both the fish and plants. However, this will depend on your choice of gravel. This makes it crucial to carefully consider your options before deciding.
How much aquarium gravel do I need?
The amount of aquarium gravel that you need will depend on several things, such as the size of the aquarium. In most cases, you should have at least two inches of gravel in a 55-gallon tank.
What is better for an aquarium – sand or gravel?
Gravel is better for an aquarium substrate, especially if it is a freshwater aquarium. It allows water to flow better compared to what sand can do.
The best aquarium gravel is a must-have in your tank. It does not only make your aquarium look good, but it also helps in the survival of fish and plants.
From tiny pebbles to large river rocks, aquarium gravel exists in several forms. Make sure to choose one with high quality since your choice of the substrate will affect the quality of life of your fish.
What are you waiting for? Now is the time to make the most out of your aquarium by using the best gravel! Consider our recommendations above and you will never go wrong!